Tuesday, 16 January 2018
Items filtered by date: December 2017

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has traced 38 choice houses to a former Chairman of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Dr. Ngozi Olojeme.

Mrs Olojeme, Deputy Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Goodluck Campaign Organisation in 2015, is being investigated by the EFCC for alleged diversion of $48,485,127 from the accounts of the NSITF.

Of N62.3billion fraud discovered in NSITF, $48,485,127 is allegedly credited to Mrs. Olojeme.

The anti- graft agency has secured a court order to place the assets under interim forfeiture, pending Mrs. Olojeme’s trial.

Besides, EFCC has obtained a warrant from the court to detain the suspect for two weeks to complete the first round of the investigation and her arraignment.

Mrs. Olojeme, who is said to have taken ill, is at a private hospital in Abuja where EFCC detectives are keeping an eye on her.

EFCC detectives uncovered 40 houses, 38 of which are believed to be Mrs Olojeme’s.

Of the 38 houses, detectives rated the mansion at No. 51, Kainji Crescent in Maitama, as a “multi-billion naira piece with some foreign leaders occasionally staying there when they come visiting”.

The golden mansion was at the weekend sealed off by the EFCC.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “EFCC  recovered over 40 properties out of which 38 belong to the ex-NSITF chairman, including the property at No. 51, Kainji Crescent, off Lake Chad Crescent in Maitama District.

“The Kainji Crescent property is said to have housed some foreign leaders when they came visiting. It is a multi-billion naira mansion.

“We have invoked sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004, which empower the agency to apply the Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause.”

Section 28 of the EFCC Act reads: “Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the Court.”

The EFCC source went on: “As I am talking to you, we have placed all the over 40 assets under interim forfeiture based on the approval of our application by the court. The assets will be temporarily forfeited until the end of the trial of all the affected suspects.”

“We have also secured a court order to detain her for two weeks in preparation for Dr. Ngozi Olojeme’s arraignment in connection with the alleged diversion of $48,485,127 from NSITF’s account. We have charges already prepared and we will be arraigning her soon.

“But she sought for medical attention in a private hospital for an undisclosed illness. We accorded her the right to seek medical aid and deployed in detectives and sentry guards to the hospital.”

The EFCC has already arraigned a former Managing Director of NSITF, Umar Munir Abubakar, and four others for alleged diversion of N18billion.

The others are Henry Ekhasomi Sambo, Adebayo Adebowale Aderibigbe, Chief Richard U. Uche and Aderemi Adegboyega.

The cash was said to be the Federal Government’s contribution to the take-off grants and Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) for Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

EFCC’s report on preliminary investigation said in part: “That through this process, Dr. Ngozi Olojeme, the then NSITF board chairman, has collected a total sum of $48,485,127 from Mr. Chuka Eze (her account officer at FBN), which cash he collected on her behalf being the dollar equivalent of monies paid to BDCs by NSITF contractors.

“She and others also diverted huge cash allocated for allowances of its staff and compensation to contributors. Detectives actually traced some of the NSITF funds in the personal accounts of Olojeme and the former MD, Umar Abubakar.

“For instance, Abubakar and others dishonestly converted to N18billion, being contribution from the Federal Government of Nigeria as take-off grants and Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) for MDAs.

“The said sum was diverted into personal accounts by an e-payment mandate jointly signed by Umar Munir Abubakar and Henry Ekhasomi Sambo.”

The report added: “It was discovered that the NSITF accounts in First Bank of Nigeria and other banks have witnessed a total turnover of over N62, 358,401,927 between 2012 and 2015 from the Employee Compensation Scheme contributions.

“That out of the N62bn, the Federal Government contributed N13,600,000,000 while the sum of N48,758,401,927.80 was contributed by the private sector. That there were several payments to individuals and companies from the NSITF bank accounts for purported contracts or consultancy services.

“That some individuals and companies that received these payments, in turn, transferred part of the monies directly to the NSITF officials while others transferred huge sums to bureau de change operators who changed them to dollars.”

 
Published in Headliners

Former Arsenal defender, Emmanuel Eboue, cannot afford a washing machine and sleeps on the floor in a friend’s place after suffering a dip in fortunes.

The Ivory Coast’s former player pocketed millions of pounds per year while plying his trade in England, but in a bare-all and heart-wrenching interview with The Mirror, the 34-year-old revealed he had been pushed to the brink of suicide.

Apart from sleeping on the floor of a friend’s home, Eboue – who also played for Galatasaray and Sunderland, claimed he dodges court ­bailiffs on a daily basis.

How did Eboue’s fortune changed? The right back, who is currently unable to play football because of ill-health, lost all his assets to his wife Aurelie after a divorce battle.

He was ordered by a judge to transfer his home to Aurelie, so the former Arsenal defender has since hidden from bailiffs for three weeks.

“I can’t afford the money to continue to have any lawyer or barrister. I am in the house but I am scared. Because I don’t know what time the police will come.” Eboue told The Mirror.

“Sometimes I shut off the lights because I don’t want people to know that I am inside. I put everything behind the door.”

To add to his woes, the 34-year-old has not seen his children since June. Not to mention the fact that his grandfather Amadou Bertin, who raised him throughout his life, died in October.

Eboue spoke about being naive and has warned other young African footballers to learn from the mistakes he made:

“I look back and say ­’Emmanuel, you have been naive… why didn’t you think about that before?’ It is hard. Very, very hard. The money I earned, I sent it to my wife for our children.” Eboue said.

“In Turkey I earned eight million euros. I sent seven million back home. Whatever she tells me to sign, I sign.

“She is my wife. The problems with FIFA were because of people advising me. People who are supposed to care. But it was because of them FIFA banned me.”

Published in Headliners

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday felicitated with Nigerians, particularly the Christian community, on the occasion of this year’s Christmas celebration and reassured that “better days lie ahead for us as a nation.’’

The President, who stated this in a Christmas message released by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in Abuja, said his administration had redouble efforts to surmount the challenges facing the country.

He said: “I am deeply convinced that better days lie ahead for us as a nation as we make progress on all the major fronts where we have set our energies to surmount the challenges.’’

According to him, the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ is an important opportunity for all citizens to show love to one another and encourage unity by spending quality time with friends, families and the less-privileged.

He also enjoined the citizens to draw inspiration from the exemplary lifestyle and teachings of Jesus Christ, who constantly stood for what is right, true and honest.

“The Holy Book describes Christmas as a festival of peace, joy, healing, hope and fulfillment. It kindles great expectations in the heart, irrespective of the challenges of the moment.

“As we celebrate this yuletide season, let us devote some time to pray and appreciate the sacrifices of members of our armed services to keep our nation safe and secure.

“By the same token, and keeping with the spirit of the season, our gallant troops serving in the frontlines in the fight against insurgency; those wounded, lying in the hospital, as well as civilians who have suffered the brunt of evil and wicked elements these past years, deserve our fervent goodwill and sustained prayers.”

Buhari maintained that the personal fortitude of these individuals would continue to inspire the nation to victory “as we turn the tide against the enemy and annihilate those who work against the unity of our nation.

“In this season of hope, let us remember to provide refuge to those who cannot enjoy Christmas at home with their families, or have been driven from their homes by insurgency or violence, particularly the Internally Displaced Persons.’’

On illegal migration, the President frowned at the activities of trans-border syndicates who had been luring youths to modern slavery.

NAN

Published in Headliners

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in Ogun, on Saturday, sealed off six petrol stations and arrested four persons in the state.

The DPR made the arrests for fuel hoarding, under-dispensing, sabotage, obstruction of justice and installation of commercial gas cylinders without approval.

All the affected petrol stations were found to have more than enough of the commodity but refused to sell it to the public.Some buyers, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), accused the station owners of selling fuel at night above the pump price of N145.

“They only sell at night and they sell for N200 per litre,” one of the buyers in Ota, Ogun, who pleaded anonymity, said.

A mild drama, however, ensued at one of the filling stations along Ilaro expressway, as the attendants and the manager fled upon sighting the DPR officials and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

The DPR Head of Operations, Mr Kasali Akinade, led the surveillance team to the stations.

Akinade said that the exercise became necessary after receiving the information that some filling stations were hoarding, under-dispensing and selling above the pump price.

“We are aware that some filling stations are either hoarding or selling above the pump price; as high as N180 or N200 per litre, which is against the government price policy of N145.

“When we see any filling station, either hoarding or not selling, what we do is to order them to start selling at the approved pump price,” he said.

Kasali, who decried the artificial scarcity created by the filling stations, added that the arrests made were due to the uncooperative attitude of those arrested.

“Normally in a situation like this, we didn’t want to make any arrest, but just to ask them to sell, however, some of them were not willing to cooperate with us.

“When we asked them to start selling, they put off the engine; that is, the electric generator, which is against government policy.

‘‘This country is blessed with petroleum and the good people of Nigeria are not supposed to be denied the use of the resources.

Meanwhile, the Zonal Public Relations Officer of the NSCDC, Mr Kareem Olarenwaju, explained that those arrested were caught hoarding fuel and selling above pump price.

He said, “four were arrested for their role in hoarding fuel and some were also guilty of breach of peace; one of them obstructed us for a long time”.

Olarenwaju revealed that those arrested would be made to face the full wrath of the law.

‘‘They may be made to pay normal fine to the DPR, otherwise, they will be charged to court,” he said.

Other filling stations visited that were hitherto not selling fuel prior to the DPR’s arrival, were forced to sell at the official pump price.

Published in Business and Economy

Fit-again Cameroon international defender Ambroise Oyongo has agreed a four-year deal to join 2012 French champions Montpellier.

The 26-year-old, whose contract with MLS club Montreal Impact ends on 31 December, ruptured a tendon in June.

He becomes the club's first major winter signing, according to club president Laurent Nicollin.

"It's done, it's signed," Nicollin told French publication 'Midi Libre,'

"He's an endearing boy, who has not played since June and is only making a big return from his injury.

"I hope it's going to be a nice surprise, he's here to help us from this season, but most importantly to be starting from the next."

It will be Oyongo's first professional club in Europe in a career which began at Coton Sport in his native Cameroon, where he won three league titles between 2010 and 2014.

He had a brief spell with Major League Soccer (MLS) club New York Red Bulls in 2014, before switching to Montreal Impact in January 2015.

Oyongo scored three goals and provided six assists in 72 games for the MLS Eastern Conference outfit.

Capped 28 times by Cameroon scoring twice, Oyongo played all six games as the Indomitable Lions won their fifth African Cup of Nations title in Gabon early this year.

Published in Sports

Today, 23rd December, it is 16 years that the late Chief ’Bola Ige, SAN, a former Governor of Old Oyo State and sitting Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was assassinated in his Bodija Estate, Ibadan home that Sunday, 23rd December, 2001.

I was press secretary to the late Chief Ige, when he was governor of Oyo State and also the chairman of the Protocol and Publicity Sub-Committee of his Burial Planning Committee.

Below is my 2002 tribute of the above title to the late Chief Ige, popularly called “Uncle ’Bola. May his valiant and creative soul continue to rest in peace:

“I am writing this elegy, if poetic license permits me to describe it so, exactly on the 19th anniversary of the prized invitation to me from “His Excellency, the Governor of Oyo State, Chief ‘Bola Ige, to an End-of-Year-Dinner at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan on Tuesday, January 4, 1983.

“My attendance (in company of my wife) and my homely comments at that party were not unconnected with my secondment, a month after, from the former Television Service of Oyo State, TSOS (now BCOS-TV) to Chief ’Bola Ige, then governor of old Oyo State, as a Press Secretary.

“I, with Femi Mapaderun (also seconded from Radio O-Y-O) joined the governor’s incumbent Press Secretary, Dapo Aderinola, our colleague and friend, to form a Media/PR triumvirate under the leadership of Mr Yemi Farounbi (as he then was). We were saddled with burnishing His Excellency’s image that crucial (1983) General Election year-what with the defections of Uncle ‘Bola’s erstwhile political associates the year before.

“Had nature not decided otherwise, I have strong reasons to believe that Uncle ‘Bola was to have been either my biological uncle or school teacher or both. Nevertheless, nature ‘corrected’ herself by spanning the uncle/teacher chasm with my appointment as press secretary to the “Cicero of Esa-Oke.”

“From  the very day I assumed duties as a Press Secretary, till his assassination on Sunday, December 23, last year, Uncle ’Bola groomed and encouraged a ‘cousin’ from the world before this in my humble self and I remain forever the loyal and grateful protégé.

“I recollect that my first contact with Uncle ’Bola was in 1979. I had joined the then NTV, Ibadan the year before from the Daily Sketch. I was a print journalist in a rush to glow in Africa’s first television station. I had been assigned to cover the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Oyo State Executive Committee’s press briefing at the Rex Cinema at J. Allen/Dugbe area of Ibadan. Pardon my immodesty to say that the intellectual interactions between a typical NTV Ibadan reporter and a gubernatorial candidate on that day were in symphony. A scout for talent and wit that he was, Uncle ‘Bola, then Oyo State chairman and gubernatorial candidate of the UPN, made it plain that I was welcome at his Oke-Ado, Ibadan residence, both officially and unofficially (privately) I embraced the uncommon invitation.

“A few weeks after the Rex Cinema meeting, I, with my friend and colleague, Biodun Oduwole, were at Uncle ‘Bola’s Oke-Ado residence to conduct interviews for our separate programmes for our station, NTV, Ibadan. We met him at table having a lunch of boiled rice. We did not turn down his kind invitation to join him at table, although we (Biodun and I) ate our share of his lunch with stew.

“Funsho, Uncle ‘Bola‘s daughter and eldest child, then a 19-year old lady, (now Mrs Adegbola), was at table with her doting father. His oft-repeated calls of “Funsh, Funsh” showed the tremendous degree of doting between father and daughter.

“Our after-lunch banters that day heightened Uncle ’Bola’s interest in my professional career and private life so much so that he stood as my ‘guarantor’, as it were, when Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Rimi, then governor of Kano State, sometime in 1982 declined to grant me an exclusive interview on learning that I was an NTA reporter, during the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) Governors’ meeting in Abeokuta, Ogun State. After much persuasion by me and Uncle ‘Bola’s “Abubakar, oblige him. I know him well”, I secured the 30-minute interview with Governor Rimi for my very popular personality interview programme, “Speak Out”.

“A professional handling and transmission of the volatile interview with Governor Rimi earned me a letter of commendation from the then General Manager of NTA, Ibadan, Prince Bayo Sanda and an open sesame to the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan with Uncle ‘Bola as the host, guest (on my programme), teacher and fair critic as occasions dictated. As stated earlier, I joined Uncle ‘Bola’s media team in February 1983 and it was an admission to the ‘Awolowo School of Life ’under Uncle ‘Bola’s principalship. He taught us a lot-politics, etiquette, poetry, music, culinary, diplomacy and values among other subjects of life.

“In a published birthday tribute in 1992 to Uncle ’Bola, I wrote inter alia “…As you now sit quietly at the bay watching the political waves romp, those who await the ark know themselves…” And when in 1999, he returned to politics and was in the thick of action and no longer the apostle of ‘siddon look’, I again wished him a happy 69th birthday in another article titled “To Uncle Bola Again”. May I quote from that article?:

“If modesty does not permit me to rate my prophecy of the ark, there was an Awo-type accuracy in Uncle ’Bola’s own prediction in his last live radio/television broadcast to the citizens of old Oyo State as the governor on September 30, 1983. I quote relevant portions of the broadcast:

“Today, Oyo State has been pushed to the gate of temporary change and the masses, the great majority of the wonderful people of Oyo State, are now awaiting the beckoning of destiny. May God guide us through. I have already left the Government House this morning and by mid-night today, my four-year term will end. I go back to Oke-Ado, Ibadan and Esa-Oke. One thing is certain; through the grace and power of the marvelous God, the support of you, our people and the solidarity of the patriotic forces in the country, the Unity Party of Nigeria, I will return.”

“Even though Uncle ’Bola did not return to Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, I, on his behalf, returned, four months after that broadcast, to serve three of his military successors for five years as Press Secretary. Please, remember that Uncle ’Bola first took me to Government House Ibadan as a Press Secretary in 1983.

“Each time I stepped into the Government House Ibadan, after his ouster, Uncle ’Bola’s “We shall return” continued to echo in my ears. Today, as you celebrate your birthday, Uncle ’Bola, whether in Abuja, Ibadan or Esa-Oke, you may please wish to ponder on your 1983 prophecy. If the return meant by you is where you are now, as a Federal Minister or still ahead, it has not been without its cross.

“Whereas clerics/malims hold the preserve to sermonize about the travails of prophets, we, their congregations, can be excused to enumerate the travails of our leaders before they sang their songs of victory.

“First, Nnamdi Azikiwe. From the pangs of hunger as a student in the United States of America, that led to his suicide bid on a railway track, the flight to Ghana, to the African Continental Bank/Eastern Nigeria Government financial enquiries and the 1979 tax tar.

“Next, Obafemi Awolowo. From the pains of semi-orphanage, (the loss of his father) at an early age to his peasantry in Ijeun, Abeokuta, his maternal grandmother’s hometown, the liquidation of his cocoa/transport business in Ibadan, the Action Group crisis which blew open at the 1962 Jos Convention, the Coker Commission of Enquiry to the Treasonable Felony Trial and the 10-year jail term.

“And third, Ahmadu Bello–His brushes with the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar and the Northern Region Colonial Administration Financial Enquiry, every great man/woman must dance to the ‘No cross, no crown beat”.

“Dear Uncle ’Bola, as wine glasses are probably being clinked, may I propose the toast by recalling your shoeless feet, until your affectionate sponsor and older brother, Uncle George, bought you pairs on gaining admission to Ibadan Grammar School, the 1962-1963 restriction, the UPN night of long knives, our lucky escape at Tonkere-Modakeke, the symbolic “Eyin Iya mi ati Baba mi” 1983 political broadcasts, the FEDECO assault, the Election Petition, the military century jails terms, the Epe House Arrest, the Abacha gulag and Ahmed Usman ‘prisoners of war’ nonsense.

“I have quoted extensively from my 1999 birthday tribute to my boss and mentor. Today, he is no more with us, as he had joined the triumphant band in heaven. But, in paying tribute to Uncle ‘Bola, one may ask: has any lesson been learnt by us, the living, between 1963, 1979, 1983, 1993 and how?

“Let us all pray to God to forgive us our sins and replenish our motherland with tolerance, justice, joy and progress. Uncle ‘Bola, my beloved soul uncle and mentor, good bye. God shall grant you eternal rest.”

Alabi, the Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland, was the Press Secretary to the late Chief Bola Ige when he was the governor of the Old Oyo State (1979-1983).

Published in Parliament

LATELY, crude oil prices have rallied steadily, rising above $60 per barrel in November. The increase has been precipitated by three principal factors. First is the production cut by members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The reduction in OPEC members’ output reduced supply to the market with a corresponding increase in prices. Another reason is the ongoing hostilities between Iraq and Kurdistan over the status of the city and region of Kirkuk. The crisis has impeded Iraq from reaching its optimal production capacity.

But the most recent factor is the situation in Saudi Arabia. When Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed ibn Salman, launched an anti-corruption purge which saw the arrest and detention of 201 persons, including 11 princes and 38 officials, oil prices rose to $62 per barrel, hitting the highest point since July 2015. Since the Kingdom is the world’s largest exporter of crude oil, whatever happens therein goes a long way in determining the direction in which the oil price pendulum will swing.

The rise in the prices of crude oil is good news to Nigeria because oil is the main source of the country’s revenue. Thus, a rise in its prices signals a surge in Nigeria’s revenue inflow which increases the likelihood of budget implementation and project execution.  However, since the benchmark used for the budget is usually lower than the expected crude oil prices, high crude oil prices means that more money than appropriated comes into the government’s coffers. The temptation, therefore, is for government agencies and officials to treat such money as free fund and squander same.

A pointer to this is the issue of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which was forced to pay N30 billion into the Federation Account following the boycott by state finance commissioners of the September meeting of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) because, according to them, the revenue to be shared was grossly inadequate.

The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the pump prices of petroleum products quickly swung into action, directing the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to provide details of the N30 billion unremitted crude oil revenue into the Federation Account. While the step taken by the House is commendable, the action of NNPC suggests that the above-the-benchmark revenue from crude oil sales is largely unaccounted for and ends up in private accounts because if the commissioners had not raised the alarm, the money would not have been paid into the Federation Account.

However, the failure of the NNPC to remit the money points to the far more serious issues of incompetence and negligence of those whose responsibility it is to track the nation’s revenue. Since there is a daily production figure and crude oil prices are not a secret, why was it so difficult for those in charge of monitoring this to find out the unconstitutional act of the NNPC before the commissioners’ protest? Was it a case of a collusion of a few against the interest of the majority? The current administration has repeatedly accused its immediate predecessor of failing to save and squandering the nation’s resources. Therefore, it should not be found guilty of what it accused others of.

Every avenue for ripping the country off should be effectively blocked. The excess earnings from crude oil sales should either be deployed to infrastructure development or saved for the rainy day in the Excess Crude Account as stipulated by the nation’s laws. It is distressing and discomfiting to note that in spite of the hike in the prices of crude oil and the attendant increase in the nation’s revenue, so much debt has been amassed in the last two years. This is not the way to go. No country can experience development without prudent utilisation and optimal management of resources.

The Ministry of Finance must up its game of monitoring and managing the nation’s resources for the benefit of every Nigerian. Every dollar earned by the country must be properly appropriated for the benefit of every Nigerian. It should not be left for a few to misappropriate.

Published in Parliament

As the year 2017 winds down, it is imperative to assess the contributions of the eighth Nigerian Senate against the backdrop of this aphorism by poet, Mary Oliver, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” We have a very “good” habit in these parts by focusing on the negatives in a way that blinds us to some of the good work that may have been done.

To many times, we often remember the Senate for the frequent face-offs that they have with members of the Executive arm, invitations to public office holders, motions of national importance and resolutions, however, there are also many times when they do make the people proud. This piece intends to interrogate some of those memorable bills through which our senators have demonstrated that their service and fealty do indeed rest on the interests and wishes of the people.

In the passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill, the Senate demonstrated that not only does it listen but also has it fingers on the pulse of the people. The Senate has via this bill, which reduces the required ages for seeking political offices, ignited greater participation of the youth, not just in politics but also in political leadership. For a country with over 70 per cent of its population under 35, this is a wonderful development that holds a lot of promise especially for young people going into 2018 when political realignments will gain momentum ahead of the general elections.

The #OpenNASS was another pivotal movement that made the transition from online advocacy to fruitful offline engagement just like the #theNotTooYoungToRun campaign. The decision to open the Budget of the National Assembly to the general public showcased an exemplary commitment to transparency and accountability which the institution hasn’t always been known for. For the first time, since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule 17 years ago, anyone could google up and see, in fine print every dime that the Senate did intend to spend and how it planned to spend it. Such move has raised the level of confidence and trust that ordinary Nigerians have in the Nigerian Senate and the important work that they do there.

No single issue has, over the past decade, caused so much economic and social destruction to our country as the extremist insurgency in the North East of the country. It has been a thing of great pride to see how citizens all over the country contributed their best to this painful road of recovery. Here again, the Senate chimed in with commitment and focus, passing the North East Development Commission Bill (signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari), which among other things establishes a commission tasked with the responsibility of rebuilding and rehabilitating the North East whilst ensuring the resettlement of the internally displaced persons into their homes. Surely rebuilding the North east is the most definitive way to defeat the insurgents, and it’s great to see the Senate playing its part in the fight.

In November, the World Bank released its Ease of Doing Business Report for 2018 with the joyful news that Nigeria had moved up 24 places to be ranked in the 145th position out of 190 countries against the backdrop of a decade of decline in the global rankings. While the Executive arm received tonnes of plaudits for this great feat, many commentators forget that the Senate had helped to lay the groundwork with the Ease of Doing Business Bills – the Credit Bureau Services Bill and the Secured Transactions in Moveable Assets.

The Credit Bureau Services Bill passed in May 2017 helps reduce the risk of lending or engaging in business with individuals or companies with a financial history of not paying back while the Secured Transactions in Moveable Assets, enables ordinary Nigerians use invoices and receipts to access loans and working capital. Together, both laws smoothen the rough edges of doing business in Nigeria by securing lenders from working with people who have questionable financial history and also enabling more Nigerians to borrow towards growing their businesses. This, no doubt, would translate in unlocking more growth potential for our economy.

Lastly, as a nation we have always paid lip service when it comes to leveraging technology to make life easier for the people. What better way to side with the people than to show understanding that the viability of our whole democracy lies in the integrity of our electoral system with the passage of the INEC Reform Bill which will shore up and safeguard our voting process.

Thanks to the bill, there shall now be full biometric accreditation of voters with Smart Card Readers, INEC Officers must now instantly transmit accreditation data and results from Polling Units to various collation centers in a manner that determines final results on real time basis. INEC is also now mandated to keep a National Electronic Register of Election Results as a distinct database or repository of polling unit by polling unit results for all elections conducted by INEC. Collation of election result is also now mainly electronic, as transmitted unit results will help to determine final results on real time basis. But the best part of the bill is that it kick-starts, in earnest, the technological evolution of our voting system. Such adoption of technology to drive our political system as piloted by the Senate would make our elections more free, fair and transparent.

The Whistleblower Protection Bill, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill all passed this year are aimed that giving fillip to the fight against corruption. This somewhat deals a lie to the notion that the Legislative arm of government is not interested in killing corruption before it kills the nation.

The eighth Senate seems not to be as tone-deaf as a lot of critics make them out. A wise man once said, looking back and looking forward is the only way to make progress. In looking backward, we have seen the grounds covered by our legislators in the eighth Senate and that they can deliver progress. In looking forward, we can challenge our law makers to always place service before and above self whilst delivering a future that we all can be proud of.


Ndukwe is an Abuja based communications professional.

Published in News & Stories
Saturday, 23 December 2017 15:50

The Guardian Editorial: States of ridicule

It is impossible not to be offended by the tragedy of Nigeria’s democracy and warped federal system which governance at the state level has become over the years.

With wanton constitutional breaches as the order of the day, the states are largely an embarrassment to the idea of democracy as impunity or the rule of man trumps the rule of law.

This travesty needs to be checked by the people who must rise in unison to demand better conduct from their governors and elected representatives in the state assemblies.

In most, the governors manage the affairs of government like mafia potentates, while elected legislators, political appointees and private citizens are mere toys in the hands of imperious masters. Most governors have virtually pocketed the State Houses of Assembly.

The truth therefore is that at the state level, democracy is imperiled and economic development truncated as a result of impunity.

The 1999 Constitution guarantees the separation of the powers of the three arms of government as the roles and functions of the Executive, the Legislative and Judicial arms are clearly spelt out. This is meant to safeguard the spirit and practice of democracy.

As a check on the Executive Arm of government, both the Legislature and the Judiciary ought to be independent. But such is the disgrace that governance at the state level has become that lawmakers answer to the governors by hook or crook.

This has not only been fertile ground for corruption, it has rendered the legislature impotent when dealing with the executive arm.

The result is that even when governors commit terrible, impeachable offences against the people who elected them into offices, their respective legislatures, so compromised and so subservient, are unable to provide any check. Indeed, most houses of assembly are no more than extensions of the governors’ offices.

One of the problems is the manner in which elected officials are produced from the different constituencies: many owe their election into the legislature to the governors and therefore become beholden to him, that all-powerful godfather.

The judicial arm is often not protected from the overbearing superintendence of the state chief executives as it gets subventions from the state governors and sometimes becomes equally subservient. Even capital projects in the form of building and maintaining courtrooms depend on the whims and caprices of the governors.

As this newspaper once noted, the mess in most of the states is a complete ridicule of the idea of responsible governance. Hardly is there due process or accountability. In the award of contracts, political considerations often outweigh other factors.

Construction works are done only to please local titans or party stalwarts with a view to strengthening them politically and not necessarily to deliver such projects to the people.

As a result, when the contracts are poorly executed, the executive arm is unable to take any serious actions against them and the result is that too many abandoned projects abound in many states.

Close friends and members of the family of state chief executives are known to enjoy undue patronage while governors’ wives run pet projects which serve more often than not as conduit for waste or outright pilfering of public funds.

It has been correctly observed that some states have not witnessed any major physical development since 1999 as huge sums of money which could have been used for development in the states are in the pockets of the leaders, past and present.

The result of this is that development is arrested. Roads are in a bad shape. Health facilities are not in good shape. Schools suffer from very terrible infrastructure deficit. And teachers, where they are available, are not paid.

Nigeria’s warped federal system in which state governments go to Abuja monthly to collect allocations from the Federation Account has encouraged indolence and corruption. The drive for internal sources of fund generation is weak in most states. Most cannot meet their financial obligations to their employees even as the same poor governance has created a bloated civil service with extremely low productivity.

In the hands of the state governors, the third tier, the local government has been castrated and fares much worse in service delivery to the people. With too many employees who have no work to do, they have become a castrated tier with little responsibility, bloated workforce and no productivity.

Teachers, in both primary and secondary schools do not feel motivated to carry out their functions anymore and the future of the country is technically in jeopardy.

Nigerians, of course, should begin a conscious process of holding their governors accountable and making them know that corrupt and inept governance will not be condoned.

The people should take their voting rights more seriously henceforth so they can send poor performers out of offices at the earliest possible time. The power of recall should also be taken seriously and routinely exercised over erring legislators. All citizens must, indeed, be watchdogs of democracy.

Certainly, some states are better governed than others but it is only when all the states are properly governed on the principles of fairness, equity and justice, that the anguish in Nigeria would be minimized and democracy would have a greater meaning to the people.

The situation now is such that governance in many of the 36 states is in a state of ridicule and the leaders in those states are nothing more than a dent on the armour of democracy.

Published in Parliament

So often, and for reasons that range from ignorance through inexperience, to overzealousness to please a principal, and sheer arrogance of power, Nigeria’s law officers are wont to act beyond their brief, go beyond the call of duty, and  misuse their legally conferred powers. These flaws were acted out in Akwa Ibom State the other day when an officer of the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) threatened to shoot journalists who were going about their professional and legitimate business. He was quoted to boast in a fit of indiscipline that ‘I will shoot all of you right now …call any one you want to call…’ This is outrageous.  An operative armed with a gun to boot, but lacking a modicum of self-control is dangerous to life and must have no place within the law enforcement system.

For too long, the actual or threatened misbehaviour by officers of the law especially within the DSS and the Nigeria Police Force occur too often; if they are not beating up the very citizens they are trained and paid to protect, they are carrying out arbitrary and unlawful arrests with the intention to extort. And even in the apparent discharge of lawful protection of their principals, they harass motorists off the road, manhandle decent persons who complain of misbehaviour, and generally carry about as a law unto themselves. Recently, and in a laughably glaring display of arrogance, men of the DSS reportedly prevented an agency of government from discharging its lawful duty.

There is a sort of tyranny of the uniform in the land; too many personnel within the security forces generally act in total disrespect for the security of society. Regrettably, punishments for these infractions are few and far between, which may explain the many incidents. All these are not right at all. They put the perpetrator, the force, and the country in bad light.  It is no wonder that recently the Nigeria Police Force, for example, was rightly or wrongly, ranked by one foreign body as the worst in the world. It is the ultimate irresponsibility and a disgrace too, that a public officer and an officer of the law to boot, should act in breach of the law. There can be no doubt that there is need for an urgent overhaul of the entire law enforcement system that will include re-training on the rules that govern security functions as stipulated in the laws, the provisions of the Constitution on fundamental rights, refreshment course in the extant code of conduct, individual psychological assessment, incentives for good conduct and tough sanctions for acts that bring the security services into disrepute. 

The 1999 Constitution (as amended) considers the media of public information sufficiently crucial to both the efficiency and the effectiveness of government to provide a guarantee of unfettered performance of its duty. Section 22 states that ‘The press, radio, television, and other mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives in (chapter II) and uphold the responsivity and accountability  of the government to the people.’  In order to function effectively, the press must have access to people in government in order to provide the public with truthful and balanced information. It stands to reason that any public officer who disallows in whatever manner, men of the press from doing their professional duty violates the Constitution and, by extension harms the smooth functioning of the machinery of democratic governance. That is a grave offence. But there is more to that.

The mission of the DSS ‘is to protect and defend the Federal Republic of Nigeria against domestic threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of Nigeria, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to both federal and state law enforcement organs.’ The directorate also protects high ranking public officials, members of their families, and other persons deemed deserving of such protection. Clearly, a well-bred DSS officer has no business harassing and threatening any citizens going about his or her lawful business the way the officer in the Akwa Ibom Government House did.

In respect of the Nigeria Police Force, its Five-point Mission Statement includes ‘to build a people-friendly police force that will respect and uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens.’ The 7 Values professed includes  to ‘deliver  quality police service that is accessible  to the generality of  the people,’  to  ‘build  a lasting  trust in the police by members  of the public,’  and to ‘protect  and uphold the  rights of persons, to be impartial and respectful in the performance of Police duties.’

It bears repeating that the erring DSS officer in Akwa Ibom State must be identified and punished as a way to deter similar acts and also to demonstrate clearly that over-reaction, over-zealousness, and unprofessional conduct generally are against the norm of the directorate.

Published in News & Stories
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